My husband and I both grew up skiing. We actually had our third date at Bromley Mountain up in Manchester, Vermont. Skiing is by far one of our favorite things to do together. When we had kids we knew we wanted them to love skiing as much as we did. When John said he wanted our first daughter to try skiing just a few months after her 2nd birthday, I thought he was jumping the gun. He was adamant she could handle it, so I gave in. To my amazement, she was a superstar that first day and loved it. After teaching our two other 2 year olds to ski in the years that followed we have learned so much about the best way to get young children up on skis. Below is a little tutorial about our “tricks of the trade”, and some of the gear that makes the whole process much easier.
The 411 on Skiing with Kids
- Have a sense of humor. There will be tears. Tears during getting dressed. Tears as you get out of the car. Tears as you buckle into the skis. And probably even during the first run. Be silly. Make jokes, and know that a cold beer in the lodge for you and a treat for them after it’s all said and done will help you to walk away from the mountain smiling.
- Have extra hand and foot warmers ready before you begin. With little ones it is hard to tell they are cold until it’s too late. Our first child used to take run after run, and then when we finally headed into the lodge to take her mittens off she would start to cry. Her little hands were cold and she didn’t know how to tell us until it was too late. The disposable hand and foot warmers make sure they stay toasty warm, and they last for 4-6 hours. We always wear mittens too, since fingers tend to get colder when they are separated.
- Gummy bears are your friends. When lift lines are long, or kids are frustrated, we offer up an “energy bear” and they muster up the strength to make it one more run. They usually have the gummy bear on the lift or before the run begins, because skiing while eating can be a serious choking hazard!
- Start on a warm day. If it’s freezing cold out, getting geared up, waiting in line, and skiing down the slopes is much less fun. You want kids to love skiing from the very first day, so make sure the likelihood of them enjoying it is increased by 30 degrees or warmer weather. The Turtle Fur neckwarmer with the material attached that covers your head keeps their necks and faces much warmer and also prevents the helmet from rubbing their foreheads. It’s a great piece to add to their wardrobe early on. Our 6 and 8 year olds still wear them!
- Don’t push them past the point of exhaustion. If you’ve had 3-4 great runs that first day and you notice your little one is starting to feel “floppy” and say they are tired – then quit while you are ahead. That’ll help them leave smiling, and it will leave a little more gas in the tank for the next day.
- Get dressed and put your boots on at home. We arrive in the parking lot with everything on except the helmet, neckwarmer, and goggles. With our first we tried gearing up once we arrived, and we found she was so stressed out as we rushed to get her gear on in the parking lot or lodge that she then didn’t want to go out and ski. Our mudroom is nice and spacious so we get dressed there. That way we can take our time and not get cold or be jostled by strangers as we squish our feet into our ski boots.
- Put mittens on before your coat. That seals the crack over their wrist, keeping hands warmer. It also ensures the mittens stay on and aren’t tugged loose and dropped from the chairlift once you are skiing.
- Use an “Edgie Wedgie” with kids who are beginners. This simple tool was created when my youngest brother was learning to ski. It’s so simple, and so genius. It’s two small clamps with a rubber hose connecting them. You screw them to the tips of your little ones skis, and then they naturally form a “wedge” or “pizza pie” as they are skiing. They push their feet apart, and the tips of the skis stay together while the backs of the skis spread out. As they evolve the “pizza pie” is what they will do when they want to slow down and turn. Without the “Edgie Wedgie” ski tips often cross, or even worse the ski tips spread apart and little legs get twisted and stretched in the wrong direction.
- USE A HARNESS. There is nothing more terrifying than watching a young child not know how to slow down, and ski towards the trees as their helpless parents try to catch up with them. The harness gives new skiers a sense of security, and it gives the teacher more control over speed and turning. Start out with your skier on a very short leash, and then as they start to fall less and need less support you can let the reins out. This also saves your back over time. Hunching over a small skier is hell on your body, but the harness allows you to stand up straighter as you ski with a child between your legs or out in front of you. The harness also has a handle so it’s easier to pull your skier through the lift line and boost them up onto the chairlift.
- Remind them to “hold their hot cocoa cup” out in front. You want your young skier to be balanced on their skis. Their inclination might be to sit back or lean too far forward. We’ve found that when we encourage our kids to hold their hands like they are holding a cup of cocoa, it helps to keep them centered over the middle of their skis.
- Be prepared to be sore. Skiing in a snow plow while holding up 30 pounds of dead weight can take a toll on us old people. No pain, no gain parents.
- Oh, and lastly, don’t forget to have fun.
And here’s a video of my gang on JT’s second day. So far this season he’s been out for 5 days of skiing!